Everyone's talking about Jesse Williams' powerful BET speech

Published: 1st July

“Grey’s Anatomy” star Jesse Williams unleashes a powerful, often frustrated, speech about an imbalance of power at the BET awards.

He was collecting the humanitarian award at the event and used his speech to praise the work that black activists have been doing in America.

Jesse mentioned US citizens who'd been killed by police, questioned the role of police in society and thanked black women for the part they play.

"This award is not for me," he told the crowd in Los Angeles. 

"This is for the real organisers all over the country.

"The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realising that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.

"It's basic mathematics. The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilise.

"This is in particular for the black women who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.”

He then turned his attention to the ongoing controversy in America over the number of black people killed by police officers, resulting in a standing ovation from the BET audience.

"Now, what we've been doing is looking at the data and we know police manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day.

"What's going to happen is, we're going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will re-structure their function in ours."

He got his award because of his role on the board of a civil rights movement called The Advancement Movement.

"Yesterday would have been Tamir Rice's 14th birthday," he said.

"So I don't want to hear any more about how far we've come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to  make a sandwich.

"Tell Rekia Boyd how much better it is to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt."

In April, the US city of Cleveland agreed to pay $6m (£4.14m) to the family of 12-year-old black boy Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by police in 2014.

He was playing with a pellet gun outside a recreation centre when he was shot by a white police officer.

A grand jury declined to bring charges against the police.

Jesse Williams also turned his attention to the stars in the audience.

"The thing is though, all of us in here are getting money. That alone isn't going to stop this," he continued, referencing clothing labels and slavery.

"Dedicating our lives to getting money, just to give it right back to get someone's brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies?

"There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the frontline. There has been no job we haven't done. There's no tax we haven't had levied against us and we've paid all of them, but freedom is always conditional here.

Jesse Williams ended his speech with a celebration of black creativity and a stinging statement on the ongoing oppression by white culture.

"We've been floating this country on credit for centuries and we're done waiting and watching while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment - like oil, black gold.

"Ghettoising and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. 

"The thing is though, just because we're magic doesn't mean we're not real.”

Source: BBC Newsbeat




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